In response to the recent report by the chief Electoral Officer regarding electronic voting, I sent the following brief email to elections canada
Yes, lift the ban. It is silly and unenforceable.
DO NOT IMPLEMENT ELECTRONIC VOTING. It cannot be done anonymously and verifiably. Two key requirements for democratic elections.
Do more advance polls if you like, have pollsters go to peoples houses if you like, but do not get rid of the paper ballot. It is the irreplaceable cornerstone of democracy.
Impressively, today I received the following reply from Elections Canada, which is actually more than a mere form letter.
Dear Mr. Moore:
Thank you for your e-mail of August 18, 2011, regarding the Internet voting pilot project.
The Canadian electoral system is known as one of the most accessible in the world and, for most electors in Canada, the current methods for casting a ballot work well. However, increasing voting options could improve accessibility for electors who find it inconvenient, difficult or impossible to vote by conventional means. The goal of Internet voting would be to offer Canadians another convenient way to vote, not to replace existing voting methods.
Elections Canada has committed in its Strategic Plan 2008-2013 (available on the Elections Canada Web site at www.elections.ca) to improve the accessibility of the electoral process by testing innovative ways to vote.
In keeping with the commitment to improve accessibility, an Internet voting pilot project will be implemented during a federal electoral event called after March 2013. The objective of the pilot project is to develop the means to integrate Internet voting into the existing, paper-based, process.
In your e-mail you expressed concern about the integrity of an Internet voting system. Maintaining the security of the electoral system and the trust of Canadians is of utmost importance. A new voting process must be safe, reliable, and maintain or enhance the integrity of the electoral process. Electronic and procedural safeguards will be put in place to preserve the integrity of the process. Further to these measures, privacy and secrecy will also be protected by legislation as is the case with the National Register of Electors where information can be used for electoral purposes only.
We understand Internet voting requires careful planning and design to ensure the system is secure, reliable and accurate. Elections Canada’s technological environment meets its current needs, but to meet the objectives set out in its Strategic Plan 2008-2013, a new environment will be developed to allow for a more accessible and secure system.
To date, the Internet voting pilot project is in a research phase, studying matters such as security, secrecy and auditing. Elections Canada is also undertaking further research to explore technical, sociological and legal issues surrounding Internet voting.
As part of our preparations to date, Elections Canada commissioned research to assess Internet voting in Canadian municipalities and European jurisdictions. A study entitled, “Internet Voting – What Can Canada Learn?,” examined the use of Internet voting and helped refine our research plans and better understand Internet voting issues. In addition, a workshop held at Carleton University in Ottawa on January 26, 2010, brought together technical experts, electoral practitioners and prominent scholars in the field of Internet voting. This study is available on the Elections Canada Web site. Other jurisdictions interested in Internet voting may have published similar studies on their Web sites.
Any recommendation to proceed with the Internet voting pilot project will be contingent on the conclusions of a security risk analysis, which will identify the precautions that must be taken to ensure that this voting method would be reliable and secure, and must be approved by the House of Commons and Senate committees.
In the context of the pilot project, Internet voting will be tested on a select group of electors in a controlled environment and an evaluation of the pilot project will be conducted following its implementation. Depending on the results, further opportunities will be considered.
Thank you for your interest in the federal electoral process. For more information, visit Elections Canada’s Web site at www.elections.ca, or call 1‑866-222-2565 toll-free in Canada and the United States, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 16:30 (Eastern Time).
Special Voting Rules Service Centre
I am glad they appear to be taking this seriously, however I am concerned that they have not yet been able to conclude that it is impossible to have an Internet voting system which is both secure/verifiable AND anonymous. These are two qualities which are mutually exclusive on the Internet. In order for one to fully exist, the other has to give up some of its vital attributes. (A little like having third party copyright locks on your hardware and still expecting that to be secure.) There is no system yet devised which can replace the paper ballot. The comparison their email makes between security of the votes and the National Register of Electors, is totally inappropriate as in the latter case you are only tracking who can vote. In the former, you are tracking the actual vote, as well as who made it. There is no department, no matter how far removed from government they may be, which can be trusted with this information and preserve the integrity of the process.
My last critisism of their reply has to do with the footer in the email which reads as follows:
This e-mail message as well as any attachments are for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient(s), you should not use, store, copy or distribute this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately if you have received this e-mail in error and delete this e-mail as well as all attachments, and destroy all copies. Any dissemination, copying or use of this e-mail is strictly prohibited.
Interestingly if what I had received from them was a phone call instead of an email, I would have been perfectly within my rights to record the conversation, however as an email, Elections Canada believes they can restrict my dissemination of the information they are sharing with me.
I am grateful for the information they share, and welcome their response. I will followup the references they provided as well, but I am insulted that they feel it is appropriate to restrict my further dissemination of this public information. At the very least they should have multiple email templates any only use ones claiming confidentiality where in fact the content is confidential.
Yet another example of copyright laws being used to (perhaps inadvertently in this case) stifle public discourse. Shameful.